Friday, May 17, 2013

Totally Texas -- Documents rare and arresting

This week’s weather alarms reminded me of the need to write about indoor events as well as outdoor ones. While haunting one of my favorite indoor venues, the Dallas Public Library, I came across an exhibition of memorabilia about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Right, I live in the city known as the site of the most infamous U.S. assassination since Abraham Lincoln’s. We can’t escape it, especially in this fiftieth anniversary year of Kennedy’s death.

The first floor of the Dallas Public Library’s central branch, 1515 Young Street, showcases front pages coverage of the assassination from both daily newspapers in existence in 1963. But the majority of the collection is on view on the library’s seventh floor. Among other artifacts, the exhibition includes the Dallas Morning News full page photo of the murder of Kennedy’s presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby; numerous courtroom sketches of Ruby’s trial by journalist-illustrator John Groth (Oswald was killed before he could go to trial); political cartoons of the period; and condolence notes to the Kennedy family.

The photos are no more graphic than coverage of last month’s Boston Marathon bombing, but may want to exercise caution if visiting the exhibit with young children.

I actually went to the library for a look at the permanent collections on the seventh floor -- a long-lost copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and a Shakespeare first folio.

It always surprises me that these permanent exhibits aren’t packed with people. The Shakespeare folio is one of about 250 still in existence, presented to the library in 1986. The Declaration of Independence is one of about two dozen surviving copies of the declaration’s first printing. Each is housed in its own room.

I’ll admit, my first-grader grandsons probably won’t be thrilled by these documents just yet. But for children in higher elementary grades and up -- and yes, adults, too -- seeing these is something not to be missed.

They’re free, and accessible during the central branch’s hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 1 -5 p.m. Sunday. The library is closed on Mondays and city holidays.

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